Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson delivers remarks at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference. Richardson spoke on budget, acquisition, manning and retention, resources, and the future of the Navy

WASHINGTON — Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Pollio could not believe what she was hearing from the Navy's top officer.

It was Jan. 25, 2018, and Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, was addressing an auditorium filled with Navy attorneys. One officer asked a question that touched on a sensitive topic: two collisions of warships in the Pacific in the summer of 2017 that left 17 sailors dead in the Navy's worst maritime accidents in decades.

The Navy had recently announced that it would criminally prosecute the captains of the vessels and several crew members for negligence leading to the fatal accidents. The questioner wanted to know whether officers now had to worry about being charged with a crime for making what could be regarded as a mistake.

Richardson answered by saying that he could not discuss pending cases. As a bedrock principle of military law, commanders cannot signal a preferred outcome. But then, almost as an afterthought, he attempted to reassure the man that the collisions were no accidents.

“I have seen the entire investigation. Trust me, if you had seen what I have seen, it was negligent," Richardson told the audience, according to court records.

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U.S. Navy photo

Editor’s Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

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